FRANCE REBORN: 1944 - Present Day
Updated: Jan 9
France faced a number of serious problems after Liberation in 1944/45. First and foremost was the necessity of forming a democratic Government which could command popular support. De Gaulle set about this immediately by establishing a Provisional Government, and marginalising The Resistance Movement's political ambitions. However, the national demand for retribution against wartime collaborators was too strong to prevent, although eventually this was normalised through the judicial system. It took time for France to begin to live with itself once more and wartime divisions to heal.
There were also large economic problems to be faced as well as dealing with the difficulties of withdrawing from its Empire. Economically France sought co-operation with Germany, first in The Coal and Steel Community and then in The Common Market (1959), today's EU. Although this was on the surface an economic initiative it also had wider political implications in terms of European Peace. France's withdrawal from Empire was no easier than it was for other European Colonial Powers. For France it included the long and seemingly intractable Algerian War (1954-62), and the humiliating defeat in Indo China at Dien Bien Phu (1954).
The Provisional Republic was followed by The Fourth Republic (with a constitution based around the Third Republic's). This was relatively shortlived (1946-58) and in the end unable to deal with France's problems. De Gaulle who had resigned when The Fourth Republic began was now recalled to Office to deal with primarily The Algerian Question.
In 1968 De Gaulle for the third and last time had to deal with a serious threat to France in the 'Events' of May 1968. He resigned the following year, and died the next. It is De Gaulle for all his anti Anglo-Saxon attitudes, which Britons, Americans, and Canadians find difficult to accept, who nevertheless in the two decades following the end of the war placed France back again as a leading European, and indeed, with a seat on The UN Security Council, a leading player on the global stage.
France's subsequent history has inextricably been linked to wider European history, but the election of Mitterrand as President underlined the effectiveness of the constitution, and so far France has been able to deal with threats from the Far left, and particularly Far Right political groupings. It has survived Sarkosy, and the Napoleonic leanings of D'Estaing and Macron
to remain a powerful example of European Liberal Democracy.
What the future holds is not for an historian to speculate, other than to say that its future is linked, without question, to the future of Europe as a whole in the 21st century.